Wide-Awake Local Anesthetic No Tourniquet (WALANT) hand surgery avoids many medical risks associated with traditional anesthesia options. However, patients may be hesitant to choose the WALANT approach because of concerns about being awake during surgery. The purpose of this study was to characterize patients’ thoughts and concerns about being awake during hand surgery and determine factors that may affect their decision about anesthesia options.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with 15 patients with a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, or De Quervain’s tenosynovitis who were receiving nonoperative care. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. Inductive thematic analysis was used to identify themes, concerns, and potential intervention targets.
Eight participants reported that patients have a general bias against being “knocked out,” 7 of whom described concerns of uncertainty about emerging from anesthesia. All participants would consider WALANT, with some reservations. Recurrent themes included ensuring they would not feel, see, or hear the surgery and a preference toward distractions, such as music or engaging conversation. Of 15 participants, 13 would not want to see the surgery. For patients who found WALANT appealing, they valued the decreased time investment compared to sedation and the avoidance of side effects or exacerbation of comorbidities. A recurring theme of trust between surgeon and patient arose when deciding about anesthesia type.
Most patients are open to WALANT, but have concerns of hearing the surgery or feeling pain. Potential interventions to address these concerns, beyond establishing a trusting physician-patient relationship, include music or video with headphones and confirming skin numbness prior to surgery.
This study provides insights into patients’ thought processes regarding WALANT hand surgery and give the surgeon talking points when counseling patients on their anesthesia type for hand surgery.